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The Trump administration wants to resume military exercises with Egypt, after the Obama administration canceled them over human rights concerns in 2013.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fateh Al-Sisi seized power from the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, prompting a freeze in military aid from the Obama administration until 2015. Tensions remained fraught between the two countries, as Egypt’s military became increasingly close to Russia.

The renewal of military exercises will likely focus on counter-terrorism training for the Egyptian military. Egypt remains beset by counter-terrorism concerns with an active ISIS affiliate in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. ISIS affiliates are actively targeting the nascent Egyptian Christian community, and have killed dozens of Egyptian solders since 2015.

The Sinai peninsula shares a border with Israel, and the ISIS affiliate remains tenuously connected to Hamas in the Gaza strip. The affiliate is also likely responsible for downing Russian Metro-jet Flight 9268 in October, 2015, killing more than 200 passengers on board.

Egypt’s government responded to the freeze in U.S. relations by becoming increasingly close to Russia. Egypt’s government supported a Russian-backed resolution in Syria during the month of October, a major break from its traditional orientation with U.S. and Arab allies. The Egyptian government also announced it would buy Russian military equipment in September, 2016, along with holding limited military drills.

President Donald Trump spoke admirably of Sisi in September saying he was a “fantastic guy,” continuing that he told Sisi he would have “strong support for Egypt’s war on terrorism, and how under a Trump administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on in the days and years ahead.”

Sisi expressed similar support for Trump, saying, “Trump’s presidency will breathe a new spirit into U.S.-Egyptian relations.”


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